On November 16, 2011, Turnaround for Children Founder, Pamela Cantor, MD, was one of the highlighted speakers at the America Forward Washington Forum, a convening of over 200 participants. The two-day conference provided an opportunity for social entrepreneurs to exchange information, learn about the inner workings of the federal government’s Social Innovation Fund, and discuss opportunities and challenges present in today’s social innovation landscape. In her remarks, Dr. Cantor focused on the work of the America Forward Education Coalition and highlighted the importance of coalition building, the power of a unified voice when addressing policymakers, and Turnaround’s role in the effort to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Immediately following Dr. Cantor, Melody Barnes, the President’s Domestic Policy Adviser and the Director of the Domestic Policy Council, addressed the Forum on the importance of a unified vision to create political and social change.
On the second day of the Forum, Turnaround Board Chairman Trey Beck and Dr. Cantor participated in White House briefings with senior officials such as Jon Carson, Director of the Office of Public Engagement; Gene Sperling, Director, National Economic Council; Jason Furman, Principal Deputy Director of the National Economic Council; and Aneesh Chopra, United States Chief Technology Officer. In afternoon sessions Dr. Cantor met with senior staff of the Senate Health Education Labor and Pension (HELP) Committee as well as senior staff from the House Committee on Education and the Workforce to urge immediate reauthorization of the ESEA. In these conversations, Dr. Cantor underscored the importance that the bill encourages collaboration with external partners, particularly in whole-school transformation efforts. While Trey acknowledged that the current budget climate makes it difficult to secure funding for worthy social projects, he found it “reaffirming” to see in-person how incredibly smart and dedicated the Administration’s policy makers were, and described his experience at the Forum as “inspiring.”
In introducing Dr. Cantor at the Forum, America Forward leadership noted that she is now considered one of the nation’s top “go to” experts on whole school transformation for policy-makers, philanthropists, and colleagues in education reform. “I was delighted to participate in the White House meetings and the Forum’s robust dialogues on education reform,” she remarked following the Forum. “I was particularly pleased with the Hill meetings and am truly heartened to see real movement on Capitol Hill now behind ESEA reauthorization.”